Oversight forces Shakespeare to share park with partiers

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Although the Shakespeare performers were able to work through the distractions this weekend, the incident hindered fundraising efforts.

It was Shakespeare in the Park, but it sounded more like Shakespeare on the Vegas Strip.

While Northeast Stage players performed lines from their Shakespeare pastiche, “In the Company of Players” in front of hundreds of theatergoers at Mitchell Park this weekend, they were forced to share the space with the Long Island Power Squadron, whose annual Rendezvous event featured noises from electronic slot machines and a DJ playing music.

The conflict came when Greenport Village double-booked the park for the events on the same three nights.

“Somebody [at the village] wasn’t paying attention,” said Northeast Stage co-founder Amie Sponza. “It felt like such a slap in the face.”

Greenport Mayor David Nyce described the incident as “unfortunate” and he said he believed it happened because of miscommunication between the village’s marina, administrator and clerk’s office.

“I’m sure both groups are equally upset,” Mr. Nyce said. “We would love to have both of them back and won’t schedule them together.”

Mr. Nyce said the village has in the past booked multiple same-day events in Mitchell Park without conflicts. What was problematic this time around, Mr. Nyce said, was that the squadron’s large tent only fit in the area directly abutting the Shakespeare performance area.

Coincidentally, Northeast Stage performed under the squadron’s tent last year when it rained. The squadron wasn’t using its tent at that time because the two events weren’t scheduled on the same days, she said.

This year, event organizers from both groups said they weren’t aware of the double-booking until Aug. 1.

Ms. Sponza said the village asked her two days before her group’s opening night if the performance could be moved to Greenport school.

“It’s ‘Shakespeare in the Park,’ not ‘Shakespeare in the School,’” Ms. Sponza said she told the village. “It’s just not fair.”

Long Island Power Squadron spokesman Glen Sherman said his group tried to be accommodating.

“We did the best we could,” Mr. Sherman said. “We tried to put up a sound barrier. It wasn’t the best situation.”

Mr. Sherman said representatives of Long Island’s 18 squadron districts have attended the annual Rendezvous event in Mitchell Park in Greenport over over the past four years. A cocktail party and casino night were held on Friday and a dinner dance Saturday night. On Sunday the group’s event turned casual without music, he said.

Ms. Sponza and Mr. Sherman both remarked on how the squadron’s DJ and the Shakespeare performers improvised through the situation.

Mr. Sherman said the DJ attempted to keep the music light Saturday evening and at one point played “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

The song came on toward the end of the play as each character recited Shakespeare lines containing the word “slain.” The program, created and directed by A.D. Newcomer, is a play told through the language and characters of William Shakespeare and a company of players.

“Rather than just speak it, we started dancing while saying our lines and grooving to the music,” Ms. Sponza said. “Had it been a full play, we would not have been able to accomplish that. I don’t think you could have ended Romeo and Juliet to ‘I Will Survive.’”

“It was very impressive,” Mr. Sherman said of the improv.

Although the performers were able to work through the distractions, Ms. Sponza said the incident hindered fundraising efforts.

Last year between 300 and 400 people attended the performances each night, donating about $800. Nearly half that amount of people and donations came in this year, Ms. Sponza said.

Village trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who usually votes against Mitchell Park event permit applications, said Monday the Village Board should adopt an events policy in order to maximize people’s enjoyment of the park.

“A few events are fine, but there still needs to be a policy,” she said.

Ms. Sponza said her group and the squadron worked together, as best they could, given the situation.

“We just made lemonade out of lemons,” she said. “It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t [the squadron’s] fault. It was the village’s fault.”

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